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Horrors Of The Black Museum (VCI Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

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    Ian Jane
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  • Horrors Of The Black Museum (VCI Entertainment) Blu-ray Review

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    Released by: VCI Entertainment
    Released on: December 12th, 2023.
    Director: Arthur Crabtree
    Cast: John Warwick, Shirley Ann Field, Michael Gough, June Cunningham, Gerald Anderson
    Year: 1959
    Purchase From Amazon

    Horrors Of The Black Museum – Movie Review:

    Directed by Arthur Crabtree and co-produced by American International Pictures (who handled American distribution for the title), Horrors Of The Black Museum is a British-made title that opens with the film’s most notorious scene – a postman delivers a package to a lovely blonde woman who opens the package to find a pair of binoculars. When she tries them out, spikes pop out into her eyes and, blood running down her face, she drops dead.

    A short time later, the movie introduces us to a man named Edward Bancroft (Michael Gough) whose crime stories seem to bear an uncanny resemblance to a string of grisly murders currently puzzling the top cops at Scotland Yard, led by Graham (Geoffrey Keen), trying to solve them. Bancroft also writes a regular column for the local newspaper where he publicly chastises the local law enforcement officials for not being especially good at their jobs.

    In addition to being a prolific and popular writer of crime fiction, Bancroft and his right hand man, Rick (Graham Curnow), who is dating pretty Angela (Shirley Anne Field), also runs a private museum loaded with a horrible collection of gruesome instruments of torture from decades past. Bancroft has a romantic relationship with a buxom blonde hooker prostitute named Joan Berkley (June Cunningham) and is frequently irritated by Aggie (Beatrice Varley), an aged antiques dealer who, much to his dismay, doesn't do a very good job of minding her own business. What is Bancroft’s connection to the killings and will Graham and company by able to connect the dots before the killer strikes again?

    Very strong stuff for a British movie of its era, Horrors Of The Black Museum is a William Castle styled thriller with some pretty unique murder set pieces and solid production values. The museum itself is, hands down, the best of the sets that the film makes use of and with its assortment of old torture devices and wax statues of people in peril, it makes for a perfect location off to which to stage an old school shocker like this one. Crabtree does a pretty solid job of controlling the pacing and keeping the story moving at a good clip. As such, the movie never overstays its welcome and keeps us engaged throughout.

    Performances are quite strong across the board. Michael Gough does a great job on the lead, playing his pretentious character perfectly and with plenty of enthusiasm. He and Graham Curnow, who steals more than his fair share of scenes in the film, have a good chemistry together and are a lot of fun to watch, while the supporting players all turn in decent work here as well.

    Horrors Of The Black Museum – Blu-ray Review:

    VCI Entertainment presents Horrors Of The Black Museum in an AVC encoded 1080p high definition presentation framed at 2.35.1 widescreen from a new transfer provided by Studio Canal. This is a really solid image that shows good depth and detail and that features nice color reproduction. Black levels look solid and the picture shows virtually no print damage, dirt or debris while also not appearing to have been slathered with DNR. Compression is held in check and all in all, things look very good here.

    Audio chores are handled by an English language 16-bit LPCM 2.0 Mono track with optional subtitles offered up in English. The track is clean and properly balanced and free of any audible issues with hiss or distortion.

    Extras start off with a new commentary by film historian and artist Robert Kelly that goes into loads of detail about the different cast and crew members (making some amusing Carry On connections), thoughts on the characters in the movie, where they film plays fast and loose with logic, how the film depicts women, thoughts on the sets used in the movie and the production values overall, Herman Cohen's career and his relationship with AIP, the film's murder set pieces and lots more.

    VCI has also carried over the archival commentary by Writer/Producer Herman Cohen. For those who haven't heard it (it originated on the Laserdisc release and was also included on VCI's DVD edition), it's an informative talk, despite a fair bit of dead air, where he discusses casting decisions, the use of color in the film, marketing and publicity strategies, memories from the shoot and working with the film's director among other topics.

    After that there's a twenty minute tribute to Herman Cohen that's narrated by a friend of his which plays out over a wealth of stills containing images from much of the man's career. This is basically a biography of the man done through audio narration over a slide show and it makes for a pretty interesting companion piece to the commentary track and the feature film itself.

    An eleven minute archival phone interview/video featurette with Herman Cohen conducted by Jessie Lilly and Richard Valley of Scarlet Street magazine. Audio quality isn't great but it's still nice that it's been included here as Cohen offers up yet more recollections from his time in the film industry.

    Finishing up the extras is the twelve minute original U.S. ‘Hypno-vista’ opening sequence with psychologist Emile Franchel, a still gallery, a U.S. trailer, a European trailer, menus and chapter selection options. This release comes packaged with some reversible cover art that features the original theatrical art one on side and a new design by Robert Kelly on the alternate side.

    Note that the commentary with composer Gérard Schurmann has not been ported over to this release.

    Horrors Of The Black Museum - The Final Word:

    VCI Entertainment’ Blu-ray release of Horrors Of The Black Museum is a good one, presenting this cult classic in a very nice presentation and with a nice array of supplements. The movie itself holds up well thanks to some memorable set pieces, good production values and a really strong performance from Michael Gough. Recommended!



    Click on the images below, or right click and open in a new window, for full sized Horrors Of The Black Museum Blu-ray screen caps!

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